Justified: Slippin' Into Plain Old Creepy

Justified S03E10: "Guy Walks Into a Bar"

Robert Quarles had a bad day. A really bad day. And Neal MacDonough got to show off some serious acting skills over multiple mesmerizing scenes in "Guy Walks Into a Bar," the 10th episode of Justified's third season. But for all the great scenes this season has produced–often at gunpoint, often Emmy-worthy in their performances, often involving dialogue that you or I wouldn't be able to come up with if we had weeks to prepare for let alone the time it takes someone to pull a trigger–"Guy Walks Into a Bar" was, for me, the episode Season 3 officially became inferior to the spectacular Season 2.

From where I sit, Season 3 has been a steady flow of these fantastic scenes and wonderful verbal exchanges that Justified is so damn good at. In fact, there have probably been more standout scenes this season than last. But what Season 2 had over Season 3 counted where it matters most: the stories told were spread out better creating a nice rhythm of buildups and payoffs. Season 3 may have bitten off more than it can chew, flooding the 13 episodes with so much story and characters (incredibly crafted characters, that is) that not all the stories get told the best way possible and not all the characters get the screen time they deserve.

Episode 6 of Season 3, "When the Guns Come Out," was probably my favorite episode of the season. A lot of that has to with the fact that the guns did indeed come out, and they came out blazin'. The pressure built up and the joint exploded at just the right time. Since then, the following four episodes have been a lot of posturing and positioning which, while delicious, hasn't provided that, uhhh... "release" that we've all been waiting for. This kind of goes against AND supports what I said last week and when I argued that Justified was spinning its wheels, but that was okay because it's still such a fun watch it doesn't matter. Boyd Crowder could read the back of cereal boxes and it would still be captivating television. But I guess a block of four episodes (though "Watching the Detectives" was a spectacular mostly standalone episode) of buildup buildup buildup buildup is where I draw the line between patience and impatience.

Season 2 was able to alleviate the buildup of pressure with a major payoff around the same episode mark as we are in Season 3. "Brother's Keeper," Season 2's ninth episode, offed Coover Bennett at the perfect time, and did it at the hands of Raylan. The fallout and anticipation from that death launched Season 2 over the tough hump all shows face and into that rarified air of BEST SEASONS EVER. Think of how different that season would have been if Raylan had a witty conversation with Coover instead of putting one in his gut and dropping him into a hole. Even the scene earlier in the season when Coover beat the crap out of Raylan in Mags' shop supplied an ample form of release. Sometimes the pot has to boil over.

Season 3 hasn't seen Raylan strike out at his foes as much or vice versa. Instead they've delivered put-downs or relied on second-hand ways to inconvenience each other. Even the dirty criminals are looking for ways to avoid confrontation. Maybe I liked this show better when there were more dumb hicks involved? I'm probably writing all this a bit prematurely, as things have been set up for a trifecta of bloodbaths, but at this point I'm still waiting for that big event and less dick-wagging.

Now that THAT's out of the way, let's talk about what did happen. After a moment of getting back on his feet, Quarles has been plastered back to the ground. The horse he bet on in the sheriff's race won but actually lost, Boyd gives him a verbal smacking outside the sheriff's office, and a former associate/gay lover/friend of Quarles' bed toy came knocking on the door with his gun drawn right when Quarles was in the middle of a kickin' Oxy high. A speech about his origins later, and Quarles has the boy prostitute (played by Tommy from True Blood) blubbering into his shoulder. As the episode ends, Quarles snorts some more Oxy (this is officially a problem now), strips down to his birthday suit, and prepares to do Lord knows what to the tied-up boy in the bathroom.

Quarles has lost a lot of the luster he had when he first appeared on the scene. Originally a craft business-like gangster, he's now become a depressing shlub that I almost feel sorry for. Homeboy needs to step it up big time if he wants to make up some ladder rungs in the pantheon of Justified villains, because he's showing weakness big time. Get it together, Robert. We need you to get better so that we're more satisfied when Raylan punches a few holes in you.

Dickie finally came back, with a pardon in the works to spring him from the joint. This obviously upset Raylan, who ended up speaking at Dickie's trial to explain why he should stay behind bars, and Art told him all he had to do was speak English and it was a done deal. It was a layup, but Raylan grabbed the ball, ran down court, and windmill jammed on his own hoop by telling the court to let him out because he'll just catch him again. Maybe it was Raylan's own way of doing business, or maybe he knows that Dickie getting released will mess up plans made by Limehouse and possibly Quarles.

"Guy Walks Into a Bar" continued Justified's late-season chess match, but it's time to start taking some pieces off the board. It's no doubt coming.


Postcards from Harlan County

– I'm not really enthused by Ava's turn into pimp. I just don't buy that she was so opposed to Boyd running that kind of game but she's okay running it. Now she's having her girls hand out blowjobs and handjobs to sway voters. With Quarles' weird behind-closed-doors fetishes and Dewey's adventure to find his missing kidneys, Justified is heading way over-the-top this season. A bit too much for my taste.

– Raylan is only NOW bangin' the bartender? Dude, you disappoint me! That shoulda been hit after a few hours.

– Wynn Duffy's mustache has the best facial expressions!

– Jed's elderly stroke-ridden grandmother hit way too close to Breaking Bad's Hector, aka Mr. DING DING DING. Surely the people behind Justified are also fans of Breaking Bad. Is that a respectable homage or too close to the source? I'm leaning the latter, and it doesn't stop at Hector. The next episode of Justified is called "Measures." Season 3 of Breaking Bad famously ended on "Half Measures" and "Full Measure."


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

Comments (27)
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Mar 24, 2012
As for the possible Breaking Bad reference, I think only the super tv enthusiasts would catch it. I didn't really think about it until you mentioned that the next episode was titled 'Measures', but I think its more of a nod than anything else. (I mean Half Measures may have been one of the best hours of tv ever)



I felt this episode was a lot like the previous episode except for the direction. Last week's 'Loose Ends' did exactly what its title states, tied up the fate of a few characters. I think this week's episode was meant to set the stage for what will hopefully be an awesome pay off. Maybe the writer's aren't planning on sealing the fate of Quarles and Limestone in the same episode... which could be interesting.
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Mar 24, 2012
I have not been enjoying Season 3 as much as the previous 2 seasons but it's still one of my top shows (it's the only good Western on TV besides Hell on Wheels). My main problem with this season is that there is no main villian for Raylan to take down. Sure Quarles is a great bada##, but he's not in every episode and is also pitted abainst Boyd. I hope the season picks up soon and builds up to a more interesting season next year.
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Mar 23, 2012
Ugh, I love this show too much. This was a fantastic episode. I guess I agree with you that so far, I enjoyed season 2 more, mainly due to this season -- not so much these recent episodes, but certainly in the first 3 episodes or so -- having one too many "big" characters going at it in the main plot. But they've managed to make it work these past handful of episodes, and I feel like I'm led to a huge payoff. If the last few episodes are great, which I'm expecting, I may very well end up liking this season more.
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Mar 23, 2012
I am a fan of Wynn Duffy.
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Mar 23, 2012
After so much praising from my side for a lot of your reviews you deserve some bashing for this. Considering what Seth had to suffer with his Spartacus reviews I think you get off the hook a little bit too easy. First of all you spend 2-3 paragraphs on the exclusive and premature view that this season is inferior to season 2(there are still 3 eps to go!) while ignoring the best and most thrilling scene of the whole episode.The title "Guy walks into a Bar" should give you a hint.That scene together with the barely mentioned scene where Boyd awaits Quarles in the front of the sheriff's office - absolutely brilliant.

If the producers did what you demanded in this review, this episode, maybe the whole season, but surely Quarles would suck big time. One-dimensional, unrealistic villain and a finale none would cherish or even understand. Quarles is so real, because this whole slick, "teflon-gangster" image is just a show, perfected over a long time, but still - just a show. And Raylan and Boyd - even Limehouse - aren't show, fake or whatever. They are the real shit and Quarles lost a long time ago. For now, the only thing making season 2 superior is Loretta.

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Mar 22, 2012
Agree with Tim more or less 100%. Regardless, it is and will continue to be a show that is amongst the best of shows, and one that I will not stop watching. I think in the next few weeks we're going to see a LOT of good come from any of the bad that may have existed thusfar in the season.
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Mar 22, 2012
So is Quarles actually raping the boy prostitute, maybe to exert his dominance? Lord knows he hasn't been able to exert it anywhere else. He's butt naked in the room and he's got the kid tied up to the toilet, like the guy he had tied up in the room in that house. There has to be some kind of sick sadistic S&M bondage role playing going on behind those closed doors.
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Mar 23, 2012
Haha Dude you're way too interested in that. What gives, just saying
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Mar 22, 2012
I'm largely in agreement with Tim's review. Throughout the whole third season, I've felt that there's simply been too much going on. Too many characters, too much setup, too much...chess playing. As always, there are terrific scenes and stellar dialogue, but the equally good yet simpler second season was somehow more to my liking. They don't have many episodes left in this season to bring it all together to a reasonably satisfying conclusion. Sometimes less really is more.



Sadly, I find Ava's complete change of nature over the course of the series to be a little hard to swallow. She seems not only to have embraced everything she once seemed to hate, but she's actually now *become* one of "them." Sure, it gives her a meatier role to play, but it's one that somehow now rings hollow to me.



All that aside, the show remains one of the very best things current TV has to offer.

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Mar 22, 2012
I can't seem to get into this season. I watch, but find I'm not caring much. I also didn't pay much attention to the details of who's doing what to who, so that may have ruined my interest. McDonough keeps reminding me of his role in, dare I say it, Desperate Housewives a season or two ago, only creepier here. I have also been distracted by Jere Burns character this season being somewhat subdued by McDonough and such a contrast to what he plays in Burn Notice, which is, oddly enough, slightly similar to McDonough's character. The show seems generally more depressing too. I'll see it through to season's end, but I may need to re-watch it someday, but doubt I will.
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Mar 22, 2012
Am going with the majority on this DISAGREE!!!

I thought they couldn't top Season 2, boy was I wrong. season 3 has been awesome and this episode blew my mind. The dialogue is to die for and the acting week in week out is stellar!!

The scene between Boyd and Quarles had me rewinding and repeating. I thought it was the high point of this episode, even besting the almost showdown in the bar.

The revelations of Quarles past, seriously creeped me out ( even more than it creeped out Wayne Duffy) because hey I realise now dude is INSANE!

I cant wait for the next epi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Mar 22, 2012
DISAGREE!
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Mar 22, 2012
Totally disagree thought this episode was awesome...... as usual. Once again you miss the mark tim
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Mar 22, 2012
I think Quarles can be summed up thusly: When a man has nothing left to lose... You're right, Quarles came into Harlan thinking he was hot shit in a champagne glass. But through meddling on behalf of Raylan and Boyd, his boss' son and a plethora of other setbacks that have ruined his craftily laid plans, he's quickly learning he's just cold diarrhea in a Dixie cup. And that's why I know there's a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. To have Quarles literally hit rock bottom, the consequences of it all should make for damn good television viewing. We just have to muck through the mud a bit to get there, which I'm more than happy to do!
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Mar 24, 2012
Completely agree. And who doesn't mind mucking through a little bit of mud when it is so well written?:)
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Mar 22, 2012
I'm liking season 3 more BECAUSE of the buildup and the more focused story. It reminds me a lot of last season of Breaking Bad actually, 80% of the season was just build up, things became insane and it was amazing to watch. This is doing something similar, but on a slightly smaller scale.
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Mar 22, 2012
Tim, I agree with you. You mimic my thoughts on the matter. Last season was better, but this season is written better. Now that might seem to be opposing ideas. But where it lies is with Mags, Mags was just too good of a character. We got to see a lot of her last season in a manner of scenarios. From the love she had to her sons and to even loretta and the contrast of that with her utter ruthlessness. I for the most part liked Mags. I can't say that of any of the current baddies aside from Boyd. And maybe Duffy, and that is only because Duffy is just funny.( I think at this point he must be asking why the hell Raylan hasn't shot quarles so that it would make Duffy's life ease. ) But last season we were made to like Mags. Because we got to know her. Now we know a little about Quarles and we know Boyd, We still really don't know Limehouse. And thusly we can't like them. I like MacDonough in the role, but that doesn't transfer into me liking the character. I like Williamson in the role of Limehouse, but I don't know Limehouse enough to like the character. And that I think is the crux of this season and the last. With a single baddie you get a more complexly and longer buildup between the two, of that baddie and Raylan. With too many baddies, we still get a good season, but it seems a little watered down despite the great dialogue. As the saying goes. Too Many Chef's Spoil the soup. Now this soup isn't spoiled. But it isn't as delicious as it was last time.



This episode was great. The stuff from Boyd and Quarles, it was phenomenal, contrasted with Raylan's just horrible speech at the court. But he redeemed that with the confrontation with Quarles.



As for Ava, i think her getting shot might have changed her perspective on what is right and what isn't in the world. Something like that can seriously turn a person 180'.



The Bartender was a nice point. It was something that Raylan needed. Their dialogue was pretty good. And though it isn't going to be Raylan and Winona or even he and Ava. But it is a nice side and distraction and who didn't chuckled when they panned back and you could see the hole from the round he fired.
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Mar 22, 2012
Usually there's a comment already sitting around that adequately expresses how I feel about an episode, but I'll chime in to say this was my favorite episode of the season so far. It's easy to gloss over Raylan's reasons for letting Dickie walk free. I was reading another review and it didn't even hit me until after the episode -- he let him go because he didn't want to show weakness. He didn't want to give Dickie the satisfaction of hearing him say, on record, that he got to him, even though it's undeniable that he did.



As for Quarles, as much as I was mesmerized by Mags, there's no doubt he's creepier. He's much more unpredictable and unhinged, which makes him more entertaining to me. Mags just visited crazy town on weekends; Quarles is the fucking mayor of crazy town and he'll welcome you naked with white powder plastered all over his big ol' fat jester grin . Him being the new catalyst in Harlan makes both Raylan and Boyd step up their game, especially Boyd. His "conquistador" speech outside the sheriff's office was just perfect. This is their Harlan, Quarles will never be able to change that.
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Mar 22, 2012
I've got to disagree with you that Season 3 is not on par with Season 2. Given, Season 2 with Margo Martindale was fantastic ... the dialogue on Season 3 has been so crisp and cracking ... I'm enjoying every minute of it. I appreciate the fact the writers tried to do something different. And I think they've succeeded.



This socieity that we live in that expects every season to top the one before or compares itself to everything on TV (which is a lot, btw!) ... will eventually leave the society dissatisfied with everything after 2 seasons.



Btw, we don't all watch Breaking Bad. And I think Neal McDonough has been a fantastic villain this season ... I'll just go on enjoying every minute this gem of a show is on the air ... without all the comparisons.
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Mar 22, 2012
I think a lot of your complaint is due to a lack of assimilation. Unless you have had an addiction, you can't see Quarles' downward spiral for what it is. Neal MacDonough has carefully and beautifully crafted his character to show exactly what his addiction is...control. Shown to be slipping away piece by piece. His Boss, boss' son, Raylan, losing the first clinic, and just the day to day shit building up has backed him into a corner he may never even see a way out of. Hence the OXY!! For the smallest moment, it all slips away. Not a care in the world, life is great. Then CRASH, every bit of the high is gone and all the weight fits neatly into the frontal lobe!!

Bravo Neal MacDonough !! Emmy-worthy indeed.
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Mar 24, 2012
I have to agree with you here... right now Quarles is the polar opposite of how we first met him this season. And watching this downward spiral from control to how he is at the present moment has been fantastic.
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Mar 25, 2012
And I can't think of 4 current actors that could do it better than MacDonough! Thinking back to his first episodes the writer's gave him a boisterous, fast-talking, idea man, with every action pre-planned and missing only the people he started placing. Now, he pauses at every sentence, eyes up to the right, unsure that what he is about to say works.

I find myself rooting for him(just a bit), simply because to lose this actor this early, would really be a shame.
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Mar 22, 2012
I thought last night's episode of Justified was very good. I loved the scene with Raylan, Wynn, and Quarles in the bar. That stare down between Raylan and Quarles was excellent. I also loved Quarles' speech in the RV. I've enjoyed every episode of this season and I'm looking forward to the conclusion of the season.



I'm enjoying season three very much, right now I don't consider it better or worse than season 2, I'll wait until the season ends to make a decision. I've also enjoyed the pacing of the show this season some people may think it's a little slow at times, but season 2 had those same issues/complaints.



I've never seen "Breaking Bad" so I can't comment on the similarities in the scenes. However the fact that next week's episode is called "Measures" while BB has had episodes called "Half Measures" and "Full Measure" seems more like a nod to another show than it does a rip-off.
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Mar 22, 2012
Yes, that scene totally reminded me of Hector! The only difference is that Hector actually was able to scare me while that old lady just made me laugh a bit. The writers have definitely watch Breaking Bad, cause it was just a little bit too close to Gilligan's masterpiece. I am enjoying this season and I find the villains to be fascinating. I absolutely loved Raylan telling the judge to let Dickie go and the bar scene. I don't know if I like one season better than the other but I will continue watching as long as it is enjoyable to.
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Mar 22, 2012
Another Breaking Bad similarity was when Quarles was taking off his clothes in a methodical fashion, reminding me of the fantastic scene with Gus in BB.
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Mar 22, 2012
i to love your reviews but this was a great episode just because it was not the usual episode with the i hate you but i am going to talk to you like your my best friend doesn't make it bad your expectations are way too high this was my favorite episode of the season tied with watching the detectives and yes i to instantly thought of hector from bb
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Mar 22, 2012
Hey tim I love reading your articles, but I have to disagree with this one. While I did immediately think of Breaking Bad and that one scene took me out of the show, I definitely am loving this season even more than last year. I found some of the Winona drama in the middle of season two to drag. You can't replace Mags, but this season has done a great job of creating some great villains. Not all bad guys are perfect like Mags. Quarles is falling apart and that is what makes him so fascinating. No other show can keep me entertained by dialogue alone, and when the season ends we will no doubt have some great action!
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